Existential Psychology

Wanting To Grow Versus Wanting To Go Back To The Womb

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A lot of mental health problems are caused by unconscious inner conflicts, simultaneous and competing drives and desires that pull people in two directions at once. The result is often the paralysis of action because any decision seems like the wrong decision.

One of the major conflicts, fundamental to the human condition, is wanting to grow versus wanting to go back to the womb. By the womb, we mean that feeling of safety and security that all of us experienced in our own lives before we were born and that humanity experienced before consciousness arose.

As human beings we find ourselves in the strange position of being organisms who must grow to self-actualize, and for us growth means separation from all of the bonds that keep us from our unique individuality. We feel the need to transcend our situations, to break free of the chains that bind us in order to forge our own paths.

But we also feel an almost irresistible pull to surrender that human responsibility so that we can experience the warm comfort of not having to make any decisions, of having someone else take care of all our needs and wants. Whether this someone is our parents, our nations, our Gods, our spouses, or any other entity the psychology behind the phenomenon is the same.

And so we’re left with the barely conscious but still very real conflict between moving forwards and moving backwards, and whichever decision we make we feel like we’re losing something vital. But really the question is between regressing and progressing, between evolution and devolution. We are free of the womb and however much we would like to go back the wish is nothing more than a childlike fantasy, both on the individual level and for humanity as a whole. Becoming a mature adult does not have to mean sacrificing all of the very important human connections that make life worth living, but it does mean questioning the nature of these connections and refusing to go backwards into a sort of childlike state where someone else dictates our values to us and makes our important decisions for us.